The Setting Looks Nice for Angels
Vladimir Guerrero reached another milestone Wednesday night, knocking in the 900th run of his career with a double in the sixth inning of an 8-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles, a sellout crowd in Angel Stadium saluting the Angel slugger with a standing ovation.
But a more important development for the Angel offense involves the man who scored on Guerrero’s hit, a player who hasn’t been in position to score on many of Guerrero hits: Orlando Cabrera.
A week ago, the Angels completed a four-game, 50-inning stretch in which they scored four runs, and Cabrera, the Angel shortstop who hit sixth, seventh or eighth for most of the season, was batting .247 and showing no signs of emerging from a four-month funk.
But Manager Mike Scioscia inserted Cabrera into the second spot last Friday, between leadoff batter Chone Figgins and Darin Erstad, in hopes of giving the Angels three table-setters in front of Guerrero and Garret Anderson instead of two.
In five games since, the Angels have scored 36 runs, and Cabrera has been in the middle of much of it, going six for 20 with two doubles, six RBIs and five runs and providing a key hit in the Angels’ six-run fifth inning Wednesday night.
“We thought this would extend the depth of the lineup and create more situational things at the top of the order,” Scioscia said. “Orlando has responded, and if we continue to get runners on and feed Vladdy and G.A., we’ll have a consistent offensive approach.”
Guerrero and Anderson have not gone hungry lately. Guerrero knocked in two runs Wednesday night and has nine RBIs in four games. Anderson hit a clutch two-run single in the fifth and has five RBIs five games.
Angel pitchers, often starved for support, appreciate the runs, and John Lackey didn’t waste them Wednesday night. The right-hander gave up three runs -- two earned -- and eight hits and struck out seven in 6 2/3 innings to improve to 9-4 and is 3-0 with a 1.33 earned-run average in four starts since the All-Star break.
The Angels’ second consecutive victory gave them a little breathing room in a tight American League West race, pushing their lead over Oakland to two games, the first time since July 18 the Angels gained ground.
The Orioles extended their losing streak to eight and have lost 16 of 18 games, Wednesday night’s game turning in the fifth inning.
After the Orioles took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth, Jose Molina opened the bottom of the fifth with a walk, and Maicer Izturis popped out on a bunt. Figgins, who has a 13-game hitting streak, singled to center, putting runners on first and second, and Cabrera worked a full count off Baltimore starter Erik Bedard (5-4).
With one out, Scioscia sent the runners, a gamble considering Molina would have been an easy mark at third had Cabrera struck out. But Cabrera lined a single to left, scoring Molina with the tying run and advancing Figgins to third.
“We feel good that he’s going to put the ball in play there, and he did,” Scioscia said of Cabrera. “We put guys in motion, he makes contact -- that fits right into what we need to do.”
After fouling off a suicide-squeeze attempt, Erstad grounded a single to left to score Figgins for a 3-2 lead. Guerrero, who doubled home Figgins with the Angels’ first run in the first inning, walked to load the bases.
Bedard, the Oriole left-hander, jumped ahead of the left-handed hitting Anderson with two strikes, but Anderson grounded a two-run single to center for a 5-2 lead. Bengie Molina walked to load the bases, but after Steve Finley popped out, Jose Molina fisted a two-run single to center off reliever Chris Ray for a 7-2 lead.
Cabrera walked and scored on Guerrero’s double in the sixth to make it 8-2, and relievers Brendan Donnelly and Joel Peralta finished up behind Lackey.
“We had the table set for guys in the middle of the lineup all night,” Scioscia said. “Orlando was on base three times, Figgy got things started. That’s important for us.”